The sprint stages of the Abu Dhabi Tour weren’t meant to be of much consequence to the Trek-Segafredo team, who are instead waiting patiently for the GC showdown on stage 3, but Alberto Contador and his teammates found themselves in full train formation in the closing phases of the opening stage.
They weren’t winding it up at the head of the race, but frantically trying to rejoin the peloton from behind after both of their leaders here, Contador and Bauke Mollema, hit the deck in a crash with five kilometres remaining.
Contador jumped on Julien Bernard’s bike and the whole squad busted a gut to get back in the frame, only for another crash to disrupt their progress with around one kilometre remaining.
All riders were eventually given the same time, and neither Contador nor Mollema appeared to have been seriously hurt.
"With a bit of luck there are no consequences," Contador told Cyclingnews at the team bus. "All good – just my throat," he added, referring to the minor respiratory problems riders are prone to picking up in heavily air-conditioned hotels.
Mollema appeared the worse affected of the two, turning up to the bus with rips to his jersey and shorts.
"It’s superficial," the Dutchman told Cyclingnews. "It’s not too deep. To come back was quite easy, but it’s never good to crash on a day like this."
Taking stock outside the bus, the Trek riders began to discuss what had caused the crash, and it was clear they were not happy with the way the sprinters’ teams approached the closing stages of the race.
"It was a really big headwind on that straight, and the problem is nobody wants to take it from 5km in a headwind like that, because it’s too far," Kiel Reijnen told Cyclingnews.
"So everyone is looking at everyone else, and the guys at the front are swerving all around. You can do that in a breakaway when you’re playing cat and mouse with six guys, but with a whole peloton, forget it."
Mollema was equally critical of the way the sprint teams were organizing proceedings.
"In the last 10km there was a lot of stress in the peloton, everyone was nervous, and the guys were going from left to right all the time," he said. "Of course you’re waiting for a crash when the sprinters’ teams are doing that. I don’t know why they were doing that – it’s not necessary."
In the end there were no times losses and no serious injuries, and the incident perhaps did more good than harm. These situations often bring teammates closer together – especially when a new leader is trying to earn the trust of new domestiques, and they his respect – and although everyone bemoaned the ill fortune, there was a camaraderie and pride in the way they collectively responded.
What is certain is that there will be some tense discussions in the dinner hall this evening, with all teams sharing the same hotel inside Abu Dhabi’s F1 circuit.
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